GROWING up in Chiadzwa, an area under Chief Marange in Manicaland, Kudakwashe Muchena (25) did not know his home area was blessed with diamonds.
He, like many other generations of villagers, was just tilling the land and herding cattle in the drought-prone area.
In September 2006, the face of the village was to change dramatically following a diamond rush that saw at its peak over 40 000 illegal miners and dealers invade the area.
He also joined in.
The proceeds were, at the beginning of the rush, pathetic. Six precious stones would earn Kudakwashe a bicycle.
With time, the proceeds improved but the chaos became worse.
Armed robbers also took advantage of the findings. The once peaceful village was now too dangerous for Kudakwashe, his two wives Mercy (21) and Felistus (20) and his daughters Moreblessing (3), Melissa (2) and Morelike (7 months).
In a bid to end the chaos, Government took control of the fields and through the Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation got into partnership with foreign investors and about 42 000 villagers were told they would be resettled to make way for lucrative mining ventures that would contribute immensely to the national fiscus.
Marange Resources, a company wholly owned by Government, won mining rights in Tonorai Village, where Kudakwashe hails.
Today, Kudakwashe is the proud owner of two electrified homes.
Yes two! One for Mercy and another for Felistus.
Mbada Diamonds, a 50-50 joint venture between Government and South African company Grandwell Holdings, as part of its obligation to the community, employs Kudakwashe, making it easier for him to fend for his family.
“At one time I feared for my life and that of my family because the robbers were merciless. They would stop at nothing if they believed that you had some diamonds on you.
“It was such a sudden change as the areas where we were panning were the same places where we had been herding our cattle,” he said, last week when Sunday News visited Arda Transau Resettlement area, some 23km outside Mutare.
“This is a beautiful place. We love it here as all our relatives and in-laws will be resettled in the same place,” Mercy said.
But Kudakwashe’s story is just a microcosm of the macrocosm; over 700 families have already been resettled by four companies operating in Chiadzwa.
Of the four, Marange Resources, Mbada and DMC an equal partnership between ZMDC and Pure Diamonds of Dubai, are yet to complete the process of building new homes and resettling villagers in areas where they have won mining rights.
Anjin Investments, an equal partnership between Government and Anhui Foreign Economic Construction Company Limited of China (AFECC), is about to complete the exercise, having constructed 474 homes which have already been occupied.
Anjin has also put up a tarred road in the resettlement area, allowing for easy access to transport.
Although the company has sunk enough boreholes and a water point for every four households, it has is also set up a purification plant were water harvested from Odzi river is treated.
The company, which only started selling its diamonds a few weeks ago, employs 1 500 workers and derives 80 percent of its workforce from Chiadzwa.
Courtesy of the companies that give them their new homes, the villagers also received US$1 000 as disturbance allowances and will continue to get monthly groceries until the first harvest.
The mining companies also provide the villagers with farming inputs.
All the companies employ mostly workers from Manicaland with the bulk being from the Chiadzwa area.
Marange Resources, has a total complement of 550 employees and 74 percent of them are from Manicaland with 54 percent coming from Marange.
In line with the Marange Resourses policy of sustainable development, the company in collaboration with community leaders provided agricultural inputs to 800 families in Chiadzwa.
The inputs were made up of small grains which are suitable for the area and fetiliser.
The company has refurbished Wellington Primary School in Arda Transau and also donated furniture for the students and teaching staff at the school in a bid to bring the school up to modern standards.
In a bid to support education in the area, the company donated 66 000 books to 22 Chiadzwa community schools.
In the same vein, Marange Resources also gave bursaries to 220 students from the 22 schools.
The company also recognises the need to grow professionals in the area. Being a mining concern, the company in collaboration with local leadership have made a decision that one of the best empowerment programmes would be to develop skills from within the area. The company has since recruited 80 percent of its apprenticeship team from the community.
This will ensure that youths from the community obtain professional qualifications which they can use elsewhere in the world.
DMC, which will have to relocate 115 families with a population of over 12 000, has managed to relocate 21 families to Arda Transau.
Gillian Sithole, the companies deputy managing director, said it was mandatory for all companies in the area to construct durable homes.
“If there is any company here that has constructed substandard houses they will come back and start afresh. We pride ourselves in quality, as that is what the people of Chiadzwa deserve,” he said.
The company is still in the process of acquiring its Kimberly Process certification, and as a result has not sold any diamonds.
With sustainable homes, solar power, water sources, well equipped schools and clinic, the community of Chiadzwa is already reaping the benefits of having been blessed with a precious natural resource in their area.
While the diamonds will eventually lift Zimbabwe out of the economic doldrums, it has always been paramount that the people of Chiadzwa be the first beneficiaries of the proceeds from the gems.
Thanks to Government efforts, the community of Chiadzwa is probably the best developed rural folk not only in Zimbabwe, but in Africa.
Sunday News – Zimbabwe